On Monday, I learned that my scans last week did not have good results. I’ve ended my participation in the first trial and will begin a new clinical trial on Monday, December 16. This one combines another study drug, one targeting the protein that affects the C125 cancer marker, together with the chemotherapy drug carboplatin, which I received in my first chemotherapy round. This trial has 21-day cycles, with only one infusion of the drugs and lab work on one other day, and with scans again after two cycles. Two treatments three-weeks apart over six weeksâ€”that’s definitely doable.
Although I had an inkling that the scans might not be good, I wasn’t expecting how not-good they would be. The scan report indicated minor to significant to excessive progression in the size of the tumors, new spots in the abdomen, growth in density of the tumor in my neck. Ah, not good. My cancer marker has increased steadily since I stopped the last chemotherapy drug in late May, but now it’s up to 581. When I was diagnosed in February 2012, the marker was 585, and during treatment it dropped to the normal below-30 range. Ah, so not good.
The new study has been on the Sarah Cannon oncology team’s radar for awhile because it “looks promising” for my situation. The trial has just opened up, and the purpose is to see if this study drug combined with a traditional chemotherapy drug can treat patients with recurring ovarian cancer. The cycles are shorter (21 days), the scans are earlier (after 2 cycles), and so the assessment of effectiveness comes sooner (6 weeks after beginning the 1st cycle). All good.
I admit that the news Monday was overwhelming for me. After almost two years since diagnosis and regular and aggressive treatments, realizing that I was a little worse that I was when first diagnosed took my breath away. In fact, I needed to sit by myself for a long while downstairs at the SC center before I could leave. My heart was pounding, and my mind was a blank. I couldn’t call anyone because I didn’t know what to say.
Eventually, this question came to mind: Is God with me, or not? If you have a Brentwood Academy connection, you probably have heard our headmaster Curt Masters tell a story about an experience his father and another missionary had serving in Indonesia in the 1960s. Curt is a fabulous storyteller, and I won’t do justice to the story; however, on Monday I replayed this tale in my mind while I was in the lobby after hearing the news about the scans.
The two missionaries and a group of native men were traveling in the jungle between very hostile villages when suddenly an arrow flew right across their path and embedded itself in a tree. As Curt tells the story, the two missionaries were unsure what to do next; then from the back of their group a young warrior who was a new Christian pushed forward, pulled the arrow from the tree, broke it over his knee, asked, “Is God with us, or not?,” and marched ahead through the jungle. The missionaries looked at each other, said, “Yes,” and followed.
Is God with me or not? Is He with me even now when I am faced with not-very-good news? Is God with me or not? When I am faced with that question, my answer is clear: He is and always will be with me. My hope and my faith are not in scan results or in treatment plans or in clinical trials. My hope and faith are in Him, and I trust that He is preparing the way through this experience, as He has prepared the way through all of the experiences of my life. Why would I think that He would leave me alone in this new experience?
So many verses from Isaiah 40 are a comfort to me right now. Here are some:
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:26-31)
My path after diagnosis may take me back to the place where I began physically, but I am not in that place mentally or emotionally or spiritually. I am confident that my oncology doctors and team are pursuing wise courses of treatment, and I continue to be amazed at their professionalism and compassion. I know that God is with me, and the twists and turns of this experience are still in His hands. I will take a deep, deep breath and trust Him; I will not grow weary, and I will not be faint. He is with me.